Bob Catchpole Biography
Bob Catchpole is a Norfolk-born sculptor who studied Fine Art sculpture at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, before going on to post-graduate study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He has spent a large portion of his professional career teaching sculpture, latterly becoming Head of Sculpture at Eton College, Windsor, for almost 30 years. He established his first studio in North Walsham, Norfolk in 1985 and has been based there ever since.
His sculpture, as one might expect, has changed markedly over the last 50 years. He has always used the relationship that exists in sculpture between the idea and the technique and has found inspiration in the tension between the demands of the medium and the idea. He uses construction as his preferred process but is very happy to use some carved components. He taught himself to gas weld very early on in his career, and pursued, for a considerable period, his exploration of ideas using mild steel and welding. His fascination with tools and their relationship to the human body began in this medium as he developed some surreal steel sculptures based on absurd ‘tools’. These pieces, towards the end of the series, had found objects, ie. tool handles attached. He then reversed the relationship, using found metal tools and carving new handles. He spent a considerable period developing this series of works based on found agricultural tools, exploring their forms and inherent surrealism and the humour to be found by manipulating the relationship between the handle and the metalwork.
Although previously he had been a confirmed steel worker, this new series was a very important departure for him as it led him on to the exploration of wood and its related techniques. He currently exclusively uses wood, mostly locally sourced oak which he seasons himself.
The image of the ‘head’, which has been central to his recent ideas, grew initially out of the anthropomorphic nature of spade handles and, through various diversions, allowed him to break away from using found tools as a fundamental starting point. He explored African masks as well as trying to use tools in a more abstract context whilst he was seeking a new direction.
Once he had retired from teaching in 2005, he began to travel widely in Italy and became heavily influenced by early Italian frescoes, especially those in Verona. The fresco museum in that city, as well as San Zeno basilica has been a huge source of inspiration for him. This interest has ultimately moved his focus towards colour and abstraction, and he has begun an extensive use of oil paint, dragged as stain onto surfaces. Indeed many of the Italian influenced pieces are abstracted from individual works; colour now plays a major role in the development of his ideas. The new works are firmly moving towards abstraction, whilst retaining very little of their source material.
Interview with the artist on the occasion of the Spadeworks exhibition in King’s Lynn, March/April 2015.
Created by Season and Amber at King’s Lynn Art Centre 2015